For more than one reason, visiting Kilchoman Distillery was a mandatory item on my to-do list when I flew to Islay earlier this month. First, I have been a big fan of their whiskies ever since I attended their 10th Anniversary Tour in late 2015. Second, they reside not too far from Port Charlotte, where my girlfriend and I had booked our hotel room. And third, they are the island’s youngest whisky production site and the only one that is not located on the shore – therefore I expected Kilchoman’s tour to be a bit different from the ones I had attended in the days before.
Located about four miles off the main road, the outlying farm distillery is not the most easy-to-reach place on Islay though – especially since there is currently no bus line frequenting this part of the island. To get there, we embarked on a little adventure and hitchhiked from Port Charlotte to Kilchoman; a plan that bore fruit quickly thanks to the incredible friendliness and helpfulness of the Ileachs (as the people of Islay call themselves). The first one-and-a-half miles we got a lift from a nice couple heading to catch the fairy to Jura and the remainder of the way we drove with a kind gentleman who had just recently moved to Islay. After the distillery tour, we strolled down the empty road for 20 minutes when a cool lady from England picked us up. She had been to Machir Bay with her family and was taking her baby son back to the holiday home by car while her husband followed on the bike. Meeting these wonderful people definitely enriched our experience.
The tour itself was also super-nice. As expected, Kilchoman is a great place to visit. The visitor center (including an integrated café where we had a delicious flapjack) is very inviting and the production facilities are really exciting. In the course of the 45-minute tour, our guide Cherry showed us around all parts of the distillery, from the malt floor and the kiln to the still house and the filling station. Yes, you have heard correctly. Kilchoman is one of only a few distilleries that still bottle their spirits on site. When we visited, a four-strong team was busy packing Sanaig miniatures.
Since Kilchoman is by far the smallest distillery on Islay – Cherry told us that Laphroaig produces in a week what Kilchoman produces in a year – the whole experience felt very intimate. During the tour, we could see all the machines working from up close and when something was unclear, Cherry took the time to explain that issue in detail. She even drew a little sketch to make the functionality of the spirit safe clearer to my girlfriend and me (although the general distillation process does not really differ from distillery to distillery, I tend to get lost when things become too technical). After the tour, we met in the visitor center again to try two of Kilchoman’s signature expressions. Normally, we would have gotten a dram of the Machir Bay and the Sanaig. Since we already knew the first quite well, Cherry produced a special treat for us, namely a generous sip of the new Loch Gorm (7th edition) which was matured for seven years in sherry casks. I think, I don’t have to tell you what an exceptional whisky this was!
If you are interested in visiting Kilchoman but do not want to hitchhike your way down there, you can choose between several options. Among others, you can rent a bike, take a taxi or go by car. In case the latter sounds most convenient to you, you don’t need to worry about your complimentary whiskies. Like all Islay distilleries I have been to, Kilchoman offers so-called driver’s drams in sample bottles. So go and plan your visit to this fantastic distillery now. You will certainly enjoy it!
Name: Kilchoman Distillery
Type: Whisky distillery
Address: Rockside Farm, Bruichladdich, Isle of Islay PA49 7UT, Scotland, United Kingdom
Opening hours: 9.45am till 5pm (Mon to Sun)
More info: http://kilchomandistillery.com (Website)